Ski Luxury for Less
Hankering after the holiday but don't want to donate a kidney to afford the lift pass? Check out our top tips on how to save while you ski.
Immediately after a school holiday is the most popular time to book the next holiday but frankly I’m so exhausted I can’t wait until January, so I’m cracking on. Just call me an early adopter.
This feature on how to do enjoy a luxe skiing holiday without having to donate a kidney for your lift pass comes courtesy of Joanna, my brilliant editor in Muddy Wiltshire. Clearly she has spent years and years flitting about on the powder because this post is rammed full of insider knowledge. Thanks for the inspo Joanna and don’t worry – I’ll be back at work at the end of April.
Having skied a few Christmases on grass (hay, even. That was an interesting experience) I was starting to think that many ski resorts aren’t worth skiing in the early season when prices are low. Tignes, Val Thorens, the bold-brash office blocks of Ishgl, even Whistler and Keystone, these were the only resorts that could guarantee snow, with their purpose-built smugness and tip-top prices and peaks well above 3000m. Although Ishgl is worth the trip for their famous start- and end-of-season Top of the Mountain concerts that attract an A-list of international stars – Elton John, Bob Dylan, Tina Turner et al – but that’s another story… But I was wrong. Turns out, with the issue of climate change lurking in the background, more and more lower resorts are making snow from the water in local lakes or reservoirs and, ta da!, white everywhere! Even in Colorado, around 98% of resorts are reliant on what can be created by machines.
Cool chalets for super-cool prices
Back to the weak pound. Ugh!, I hear you shout but hold fire, Muddys – precisely because of this there are some amazing ski deals out there this year, and now is the time to bag a bargain. I’m not talking cheap-as-chips 6-to-a-bed nonsense, I’m talking luxury here – high-end designed chalets, cow-skin rugs, floor-to-ceiling glass and posh smellies in the bathroom. You just need to be a bit clever when you start to look…
There are some great deals offering luxe for less through some of the larger ski operators – ski chalet specialists Ski Total have stays in La Tania so you can explore the leviathan that is the Three Valleys, and Skiline has offers in super-luxe Meribel-Mottaret – but travelling this way will primarily be package holidays and your flexibility can be limited. Our bet is to ditch the big brands and go straight to the chalets themselves for the best deals on luxury.
We have scoured what’s out there and have come up with a true gem – our top tip for luxe for less this winter is Reach4thealps, a growing chalet company offering catered and self-catering stays in Morzine, Lets Gets and Montriond, the perfect base to explore the massive ski area of Portes Du Soleil. If you have a snoop now, you can get up to 33% off New Year week and they might even chuck in some free lift passes if you’re lucky. Fancy Christmas in the Alps? You can get a whopping 25% off Christmas week luxury, which will also bag you a free Portes Du Soleil kid’s ski pass (worth €200!) with every adult pass bought. The first week of the season (starts 16 December this year) and April skiing will get you even better value, often with free transfers, so you’ve got more squids to spend on that Perfect Moment ski sweater I know you’ve got your eye on.
With one of their chalets ranked no 2 on Tripadvisor, if you’re after a super-luxe holiday – think chalets bang in the centre of town with your own dedicated mini-bus/driver combo to drive you to the slopes, then on to the bar and home in time for tea, grown-up chalet staff (no chucking spag-bol at you in a rush to get to the pub), delicious food and a 70% rate of repeat guests (beat that!) – Reach4thealps are properly ‘Muddy.’ Run by Scottish husband-and-wife team Gina and Marcus and their amazing staff, this is proper luxury without having to sell off the kids. In fact, your Muddy team are off to have a snoop for ourselves this December so we will report back with a mega Muddy review after Christmas, just in time for you to get booking for Easter.
You might not think self-catering fits into your luxury ski holiday vision but I promise you, it can. Self-catering no longer means shabby, purpose-built flats in the midst of a bleak James-Bond-style block. Oh no, smart apartments of slate and glass are within reach, my friend! Reach4thealps have eight self-catered chalets, just as glossy and lovely as their catered ones. A little birdy just told me that La Ferme and L’Ecurie (both sleeping 15/16 with hot tubs, gardens and saunas, no less) have just gone live on the website, are 2 mins walk from the central ski lift and…wait for it…will have fab prices as they are new to the Reach4thealps fold. There you go! Luxury for less. Don’t ever say we at Muddy aren’t right in the thick of it with the in-the-know juicy stuff.
If you don’t fancy cooking, get a chef over. Chez Toi and Chalet Kitchen, both based in Morzine, will deliver any or all of your meals at the click of a finger (well, they might need a little more notice) so it’s bye bye cheese on toast and hello lovely home-cooked meals for a fraction of the price of a mountain restaurant. It’s a great way to keep costs down but still get you that dream ski holiday.
Pop home for lunch
OK, OK, it sounds boring and I’d much rather lounge about draped in fur in some mega-mountain gaff glugging rosé by the magnum and waiting for the shots to start coming my way. But I’ve got kids in tow and one of them eats more than me and then they demand pud and when the bill comes I fall off my chair. Luckily, Morzine is a small enough resort, with runs right down into the village centre, to make lunch at home or at one of the local bakeries easy-peasy and way less spenny. Leaving much more dosh for the toffee vodkas at the end of the day, thank you very much.
Make it a weekend
So, you’d rather have a whole week but the budget doesn’t stretch that far? How about a weekend or short break instead? A 3-night stay means less time off work, less time for Granny to cope with the little cherubs and you can still get four full days skiing if you are clever with your timings.
A bit like ski hire – shop around. Then shop around some more. Ski lessons are not a natural place for massive discounts but you might wangle a sibling discount out of them. This is the one area I wouldn’t scrimp on, however. There is a huge difference between a small, locally-run ski school where the instructor speaks good English, doesn’t ditch your kid when they’re throwing a wobbly and there are less than forty-five kids in a class, compared to some of the huge French national schools (kids get lost. They do. They just don’t tell you. Trust me, I’ve heard stories). I’m plumping for the lovely Jaz from British Alpine Ski School for excellent lessons – they have a tip-top reputation and actually take the time to listen to you during the lesson – they are all about developing the individual rather than just teaching a group lesson. No screaming at me to get my lazy butt up off the snow then… Plus, they have a huge range of courses, all the instructors are Brits so they’ll get my shocking sense of humour and maximum group sizes are only 6. As one of the original and best British ski schools in Morzine, these guys are in high demand through the bulk of the season – so book early – but they do offer packages for beginners during the early season and quiet January weeks, that include discounted lift passes.
Are you a boarder? Our fave snowboard school on the mountain is Real Snowboarding – fun, cool and serious about their boarding, these guys are the real deal. The main men, Barry and Dave, teach all levels of snowboarding but thrive on coaching freestyle boarding (they both coach the British Military freestyle snowboard teams and Barry coaches the British junior snowboard team, so they know their biscuits). They run lessons for all abilities but their snowboard camps are a must for all keen boarders (my son loves them), plus they are the only BASI snowboard trainers in the Portes du Soleil area so if you’re up there with the best and want to train as an instructor, these are your guys. Book now for their winter snowboarding camp 18-25 March, aimed at intermediate and above snowboarders looking to get into the snow park…details will be on their website soon so watch this space.
Don’t fly! This has been my major revelation in the past few years – obviously for short breaks you need to fly but otherwise, seriously think about driving. Morzine is one of the closest resorts to the UK mainland, the drive is perfectly do-able from Calais and you’ll knock out the whole journey, including super-speedy Euro Tunnel and all tolls, for well under £700. That’s in total, not per person. No fanny-ing around the airport (spending money!), no hanging around for transfers and, especially in peak weeks, no £500-a-head flights. Might want to invest in iPads and headphones for the kids though or the journey might seriously test your sanity.
Activities and apres-ski
Ah, now we’re talking the fun stuff. No, I don’t mean dancing on the tables in ski boots with a bottle of schnapps in hand, although now you mention it…There are other ways to save a bit of cash and still go luxe. Book the kids into all-day ski school and save the mountain fondue feasts just for yourself. You’ll save a fortune on their lunches and they’ll be more than happy with a bowl of pasta with their mates.
Not so much money-saving but more having-a-fab-holiday…don’t forget to indulge in the fun stuff to do outside of skiing. morzine-avoriaz.com has loads of cool things to do from biathlon (no, I’m not joking) to paragliding, heli-skiing, nordic walking, snowmobiling, ice diving (!!) and night-sledging, which is truly awesome. Heard of ski Joëring? Nope, me neither but it looks like it involves a horse and skis and might be a lot of fun. With a lot of gin in my system first.
Don’t fancy the Alps this year? It doesn’t have to be hugely expensive to go further afield. Iglu Ski is offering family trips to Lapland this Christmas, with a three or four day break including festive activities such as sleigh rides, a visit to see the elves and of course the big man himself. Or chase the powder across the pond with deals in Mammoth with Ski Safari. Norway is the hot new luxe place to go – Voss Resort in the Norwegian fjords is the perfect skiing destination for powder, off-piste and ski-touring, with – big tick – uncrowded slopes. Or – don’t laugh – adventurers after a powder paradise are heading to the mountains of Iran. Snoworks is running a trip to Iran’s top resorts for British skiers in March, with tour operator Mountain Heaven.
Ready to book?
Need any more convincing? Doubt it, my lovely Muddlies. Get going and book now for the best luxury dealsout there, and check out for yourself what Morzine has to offer. Watch this space and check out my review early in the New Year and if you haven’t booked by then, trust me, you’re going to! Who knows, a few more tips like these and you might even stretch your budget to two ski holidays this year…